Older couple drinking water in field with dog

Don’t Let Heat Stroke Strike Your Family

Between tornadoes, flooding and severe storms, there are a number of significant weather events North Texans prepare for every year, but many neglect to prepare for the deadliest weather event in the nation: heat.

That’s right, according to data from the U.S. Natural Hazard Statistics, heat accounted for an average of 130 deaths a year between 1986 and 2015. Flooding accounted for an average of 82 deaths a year and tornadoes accounted for 70 deaths a year.

Whether it is hot or cold outside, your body is always working to maintain a normal temperature of 98.6 degrees, but when temperatures are extreme, your body has to work even harder to maintain that temperature. When it’s hot, your body sweats to keep you cool. In fact, your body has about four million sweat glands, all working to cool you off by perspiring when your internal body temperature is high.

Heat exhaustion occurs when your body can’t cool off quickly enough and overheats. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Heavy sweating
  • Headache

To treat heat exhaustion, it’s important to move to a cool location, drink a lot of water, and use cool compresses to lower your body temperature.

Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can be life-threatening. Heat stroke occurs when your body temperature reaches 104 degrees, which is the point when your body cannot regulate temperature on its own, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

In addition to heat exhaustion symptoms, symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Flushed or red skin
  • Lack of sweating
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fainting
  • Seizures

Call 911 if:

  • Symptoms don’t improve or person affected still has a fever of 102 degrees or higher after 30 minutes of treatment
  • The person goes into shock, faints or has seizures
  • The person stops breathing

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be prevented by staying indoors when the temperature and heat index (what the temperature feels like) are high. If you have to go outdoors during high temperatures, it’s important to take the following precautions:

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat or using an umbrella
  • Use sunscreen with SPF of at least 15
  • Avoid or limit alcoholic or caffeinated drinks
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors

Dehydration contributes to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so drinking plenty of water throughout the day, not just large amounts at certain times, can help prevent heat-related illnesses.

Certain medicines can put you in danger of heatstroke, as well. Talk to your doctor if you take any medication that can alter the way your body reacts to heat, or have an ongoing health problem. They can help you manage the heat with your condition.

Just like you prepare your family for other emergencies, teach them the warning signs of heat-related illnesses and what to do in the event of a heat emergency. Doing so can keep your family and others safe as temperatures rise this summer.

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